Wednesday, 9 September 2015

In My Kitchen ... in September 2015

It's In My Kitchen time again! Gosh, this year is flying by! Is it my imagination, or do the years pass more quickly the older you get!

Finally I've settled back into home routines after our time spent travelling, and what a pleasure it's been to once again fossick around in the kitchen.

Many months ago I was a lucky recipient of a tiny package of Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's world famous soughdough starter, 'Priscilla'. Unfortunately circumstances conspired against me until this week - when 'Lisa Marie', daughter of 'Priscilla' finally entered the building!

A novice sourdough baker, before taking the plunge, I read every relevant post on Celia's blog - where she so generously shares her expertise, tips and step by step photographs. My first efforts were quickly devoured by the family - with instructions to make more! So, while I have much to learn about the art and science of sourdough baking, I will definitely be giving it my best go! I'm hooked!

Gifted a beautiful bottle of homemade vanilla essence a couple of years ago - that I used to the last drop - I've been inspired to make a batch of my own! Glenys, you are my inspiration!

We've had an abundance of plump juicy Meyer lemons this year, so I was thrilled when a generous friend provided me with her family recipe! The colour and aroma of the macerating lemon rind is quite wonderful! Thanks so much, Anna!

My amazing 89 year old mother-in-law, Maria, has been making these dry cured Kalamata olives. They are stunning on a meze plate, dusted with a little freshly grated lemon rind. I think another culinary lesson is in order!

Finally, I would like to extend my grateful thanks to wonderful Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for not only for hosting this amazing series - check it out here - but for inspiring cooks, like myself, everywhere! Thank you so much, Celia!



Tuesday, 11 August 2015

In My Kitchen ... August 2015

After several months absence how lovely it is to be back contributing to In My Kitchen, hosted by the wonderful Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

I have been very fortunate over these last few months to enjoy travelling the length and breadth of the USA with husband, John. What an adventure it was! Needless to say an important part of the adventure was dipping into diverse local food offerings.

Since I haven't been in my kitchen I'm sharing with you some of some of the food experiences I enjoyed.

On our first day in New York City we stumbled across The Pie Company Bakery - which makes the Best Apple Pie in New York according to Daily News, Best of New York. High praise indeed!

In need of resting our well walked feet we decided that we couldn't go past the Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie. The delicious 5 inch pie was enormous - and more than enough to satisfy the two of us. We savoured every last crumb!

Located on 424 West 43 Street (between 9th and 10th avenues) NYC, it is well worth a visit!

If you love food then no visit to New York would be complete if you did not visit Eataly. Located in the Flatiron District it's a ridiculously busy, buzzing place where you can purchase the finest Italian ingredients as well as enjoy a fabulous meal or glass of wine. My photos do not even begin to capture it's atmosphere. Put this place on your foodie bucket list!

New York is famous for pizza, and on the recommendation of a friend we found ourselves at Vezzo Thin Crust Pizza on Lexington Street. John ordered the Meatlovers, while mine was the Parma. Both were superb! I'd go back tomorrow if it weren't so far!

On a glorious Saturday, together with thousands of other like minded people, we explored the incredible Chelsea Market. What a wonderful place! If only we hadn't already eaten, then like these people, we might have enjoyed the amazing lobster available at The Lobster Place. Next time!!!

Chalkboard menus provided wonderful insights into local cuisine. This cafe menu, at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame, featured a number of intriguing items I've not seen on Australian menus - fried catfish, fried grit cakes, fried okra ...  I did enjoy the catfish!

In Memphis we ate the best BBQ ribs I've tasted. Blues City Cafe is not only the place to go for great music - but they boast Beale Street's best BBQ ribs. We ordered a full rack, shared the succulent and tender meat that just fell off the bone - and sucked the bones! It was that good! I would love to be able to make these at home!

It was particularly hot the day we visited Oak Valley Plantation, Louisiana - the perfect reason to try one of their famous Mint Juleps! While it was very sweet, the bourbon packed a nice punch! Find the recipe here!

An evening cooking class held at the New Orleans School of Cooking was a treat! Chef Julie demonstrated a menu featuring the making, and eating, of Southern classics - Gumbo, Jambalaya, Bread Pudding with Whisky Sauce, and Pralines. Oh my, the food was so tasty we all went back for seconds! As an added bonus I now know the importance of, and how to prepare, a decent roux!


Whilst in New Orleans we had to try their famous beignets - more than once! I'm looking forward to trying to reproduce these for a special breakfast one day soon. Does anyone have a foolproof recipe that they would be willing to share?

A highlight of our visit to the fabulous Buffalo Bill Centre of the West in Cody, Wyoming, was hearing Ron Reed talk about the history of the chuck wagon and the role of the 'cookie' on cattle drives. Ron demonstrated the making of truly feather light Sourdough Cowboy Biscuits, and tasty Cowboy Beans. Both were cooked over coals in Dutch ovens. Believe me when I say, if all cookies cooked like Ron, those cowboys of old were very well fed! You, too, can watch Ron work his magic by clicking on the link for Cowboy Biscuits here, and Cowboy Beans here.

In Los Angeles we found the home of the best hamburgers and hot dogs we have ever eaten - and chilli chips to die for! Carneys, just doors down from the Andaz West Hollywood, where we were staying, is a restaurant uniquely located in two old Union Pacific railway cars - on Sunset Boulevard. Simply fabulous, and reasonably priced to boot! Get yourself there if you are ever in LA!

NB: I'd love their chilli recipe!

 I must confess that by the end of our trip I was longing for a home cooked meal, and fresh fruit and veggies fresh picked from the garden. Travel is wonderful - but there's no place like home!



Monday, 2 March 2015

In My Kitchen ... in March 2015

I have a confession to make. In my kitchen very little cooking has been happening - for a while now!

Why you might ask? Well, I now have a lived experience of how incredibly debilitating and excruciatingly painful 24/7 sciatic pain can be. Fortunately, after trying a number of options, I've just had a treatment that has worked, and so slowly, slowly I'm returning to health!

These trying few months have certainly highlighted to me the importance of our health - and how fragile it really is. I've been investigating the concept of 'food as medicine' - and what part foods might play in healing my body that has been assualted by pain, anaethestics, pain killing drugs and antibiotics! To say my gut microbes have been compromised is an understatement!

All is not lost however! I have focussed my attention on making bone broths, exploring fermented foods for the first time, and making the most of fresh summer vegetables grown organically in our little garden. I know too, that what I have learnt will continue to influence my future cooking!

In my kitchen I have embraced principles of the Paleo diet. I've been craving chicken soup as my body heals. This a  Paleo chicken bone broth soup that I made for lunch. With celery, carrot, spring onions, ginger and chilli plus a squeeze of lime juice for freshness it was yummy! I'll be putting this recipe up on the blog soon if you are interested.

These beef marrow bones are currently roasting in the oven before I place them in the slow cooker along with water and apple cider vinegar to cook slowly for 24 hours.

Up until now my experience with fermented foods has been limited to the recent discovery of kombucha. I found this punchy kimchi at Romeo's Heath Store in North Adelaide. I'm really enjoying the spicy flavours but will need to start making my own as it is very expensive! If anyone can recommend recipes for probiotic rich saurkrauts, kimchis and the like I would be very grateful.

What a joy it is to eat home grown produce from our garden. We have eaten simple salads drizzled with EVOO all summer long.

With not much cooking happening in my kitchen I thought I would share with you my original mixmaster. It's a Sunbeam, given to me by my parents as an engagement gift - which makes it a vintage circa 1974 model! Despite having taken a beating over the years it still works - although at only one medium speed. 

In my heart of hearts I confess that I think it makes a better cake than my current fabulously expensive mixer! Maybe, like old and dear friends, we just understand each other's foibles better!

Thank you so much for visiting my kitchen this month! Please do visit Fig Jam and Lime Cordial where the amazing and generous Celia hosts the In My Kitchen series. There you will find wonderful kitchens from around the world to peek in to!

Wishing you good health!



Friday, 9 January 2015

How to Make Sun Dried Plum Fruit Leather

It's summer here in southern Australia - and that means gorgeous summer fruits by the bucket load!

Recently I was gifted a huge haul of the most beautiful plums. Firm, juicy and nicely tart they made exquisite jam. And, having made three batches of jam I found that I had a bowl full of fruit left over - but not enough to make the fourth batch of jam!

Not wishing to waste these beautiful fruit, and mindful that young grandsons were coming to stay during the school holidays, I decided to try making a simple two ingredient fruit leather. An opportunity to make a healthy snack for the boys, I thought!

The days at the time were gloriously sunny with temperatures ranging from about 28 - 34 degrees Centigrade. On a whim therefore I decided to try drying the fruit leather in the sun. I shared the results on my In My Kitchen ... in January post here, and was amazed at the interest in this method of drying fruit leather.

At this point I need to confess that my motivation to try the magical power of the sun was actually two fold. Firstly, I do not own a dehydrator, and secondly, my oven has an annoying safety feature - it automatically switches off after two hours! While I still have not worked out how to overide this, but there must be a way! Suggestions anyone?

I was thrilled to find that my solar powered drying experiment worked so fabulously well!

The fruit leather strips have been a hit with the grandsons who gave them a double thumbs up!

What more could a Granny want!

Sun Dried Plum Fruit Leather


1kg plums
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water


Wash the fruit. Cut the plums in half, remove the pips and any bruised flesh. The plums I used were dark skinned but pink inside (I'm not sure of the variety) - but any type will do.

Place the sliced fruit in a saucepan together with the water. Bring to the boil, turn back the heat and simmer gently until the plums are cooked through. Add the sugar and, stirring constantly, cook for 5 minutes more. Taste the fruit mixture and add a little more sugar to taste if the cooked plum mixture is too tart for your palate. This will depend very much on the type of plum you have used.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the fruit mixture to cool. When just warm use a stick blender to puree the fruit.

Line baking trays or roasting pans with baking parchment paper. Pour in the puree and spread evenly over the tray to a depth of about 3 millimetres. I used three roasting pans.

Place your trays in the sun and cover, if necessary, with a fine nylon mesh cloth to keep any insects out. I use a curtain bought from an oddments bin at IKEA for this! It's perfect for the job!

We have a stone topped picnic table that gets quite hot in the sun so I placed the baking trays in full sun on the table. This meant the fruit leather was heated from the bottom as well as the top, hastening the drying of the fuit leather significantly! The leather, using this method, was ready in only four hours!

Using kitchen scissors and leaving the backing baking paper on I cut the leather into strips about 3 centimetres and rolled them up for storage in an airtight container.

Harnessing the magical power of the sun is a not only a cost effective means of preserving, but planet friendly as well! I encourage you try it!




Thursday, 1 January 2015

In My Kitchen ... in January 2015

Happy New Year, Celia and fellow In My Kitchen devotees! I do hope the coming year for each of you - and IMK readers - is full of love and wonderful things cooking in your kitchens!

In My Kitchen in January we are enjoying fresh produce picked from my first attempt at straw bale gardening. I'm very pleased with the garden so far - we'll see how it fares with 40 degree plus days! Fingers crossed!

With lots of tiny tomatoes to use I decided to try lightly oven roasting a few and tossing them into a jar with sea salt, thyme and garlic and topping the lot with EVOO. Served as part of a meze plate they are delicious!


Summer time equals fruit time in our garden! With a bumper crop of Anzac peaches this year, together with buckets of beautiful apricots and plums given to me by my brother-in-law, Con, I've been busy!

I have filled a cupboard with, and gifted, jars and jars of peach, apricot and plum jam. I find jam making a relaxing and rewarding pastime. It also brings back beautiful memories of my late mum - I have posted her recipe for amazing apricot jam here!

My grandsons were thilled that I had so many peaches to use! It meant that after a 12 month absence (there were no peaches last year) their favourite Peach Ice has reappeared in the freezer - and so on the dessert menu - at Granny's house! Take it from me - Peach Ice is incredibly easy to make - you don't even need to peel the peaches!

Fruit leathers have also been on the list of things to do. I do not have a dehydrator so have used the magical power of the sun to make these! I do love our Mediterranean climate here in South Australia!

Inspired by my success with the fruit leathers I tried sun dried Apple Cinnamon Chips! Oh my! How tasty and healthy are they! I'll post how I made these little beauties very soon!

Finally, I have to share - well, brag a little - if I'm honest! The Christmas Pudding was an absolute triumph!!! I've been looking for the perfect Christmas Pudding recipe for a long time - and I've found it! I extend a huge thank you to the wonderful Stephanie Alexander, for sharing with us all, her Grandmother's recipe. You will find the recipe in her fabulous book The Cook's Companion. If you don't have a copy - take it from me - you need one!

I love the In My Kitchen series, hosted by wonderful and generous Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Click through to check out her amazing blog, and to visit kitchens of participating bloggers from around the world. They are such an interesting lot!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my kitchen adventures this month, as much as I have enjoyed writing about them! Thanks for dropping in!



My Mum's Amazing Apricot Jam

What is there not to like about a luscious Apricot Jam!

During our Australian summer we are certainly spoiled when it comes to an abundance of this favourite Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fruit . Apricots, grown since antiquity, are thought to have originated in China and to have been bought to the western world by Alexander the Great.

We have a family Christmas tradition of enjoying seasonal homemade jams with our buttery crossiants for Christmas morning breakfast. Imagine my excitement then when I received a call from brother-in-law Con, to help myself to the abundance of fruit on his loaded tree - before all the fruit were eaten by pesky parrots!

The arrival of the apricots in my kitchen started a flurry of jam making activities! And, on Christmas morning, we spooned generous dollops of apricot jam onto our warm crossiants - and were instantly transported to heaven!

For me the ritual of making apricot jam is also an activity loaded with loving memories of my late Mum. Of the huge apricot tree that grows outside what was her kitchen. And, of carefree holidays on the family farm - my childhood home. Just precious weeks before she passed away Mum closely supervised my making of the annual supply of apricot jam! How I treasure the memories of that jam making - and those special moments spent with her - in her kitchen, stirring that jam on her stove.

Naturally I use my dear Mum's tried and true recipe for Apricot Jam - and continue to use imperial measurements for this jam!

Do invest in a good candy thermometer - it takes the guessing out of when your jam has reached setting point - and results in perfect jam every time!

Jam making takes time and patience - and so is a rather 'zen-like' activity in our busy, rushed lives! Do breathe deeply, relax and enjoy the whole experience!

My Mum's Amazing Apricot Jam

4lbs sliced apricots
3lbs white sugar


Choose apricots that are not over ripe. Wash and drain the fruit. Cut into slices discarding the stones and any bruised areas. Place in a large bowl and cover with the sugar. Let stand overnight.

Next morning place the mixture into a large pan greased with butter - this step of greasing the pan is important!

Bring the apricot mixture slowly to the boil, stirring regularly and watching carefully, adjusting the temperature where necessary, during the 'foamy stage'. The butter will make the sides of the pan more difficult for the foam to climb and help to ensure your mixture does not boil over. Believe me when I say that boiling the jam over creates an incredible sticky mess on your stove top - and spoils your jam making experience! See below - I should have followed my own advice!

Bring the mixture up to a rapid boil and stir constantly using a long handled wooden spoon - do not leave your jam! Do be extremely careful tending the jam during this cooking stage as boiling jam spits and can cause nasty burns if it lands on your bare skin.

I prefer my jam to be 'soft' in consistency - and have found that boiling the jam until it reaches 103 degrees Centigrade achieves my desired result.

Take your jam off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Use a pyrex jug (this is not a sponsored post!) to pour the hot jam into sterilised jars. I used to sterilise the jars in the oven but now using the dishwasher is my preferred method.

Fill the jars almost to the brim - the jam will shrink slightly as it cools. Screw on a sterilised lid, or top with transparent preserve covers. I use Kleerview made by FowlersVacola (this is not a sponsored post) - which are found, at this time of year, usually located somewhere near the sugar in your supermarket aisle.

Label. Store in a cool dark cupboard - and enjoy over the coming weeks and months!



 Footnote: It can be tempting to use the cheapest sugar on the supermarket shelves for your jam making. I have found through experience that these sugars result in a poor quality jam. Mum did warn me! She always used sugar made by CSR (this is not a sponsored post!) - and believe me when I say it does make a difference!

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